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Stories, Stats, Impacts: Wyoming Public Media is here to keep you current on the news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

University Of Wyoming Team To Develop Handheld, 15 Minute COVID-19 Test

Cayla Nimmo, Star-Tribune

The University of Wyoming is part of an international effort to create a rapid handheld test for COVID-19.

The team, from UW and the National University of Ireland Galway, will engineer antibodies that are more sensitive than those used in current tests. By using antibodies that were engineered in their lab, the scientists will avoid supply chain issues.

The engineered antibodies will be mixed with a test sample to detect the coronavirus and trigger a signal in a handheld device, called a spectrometer, within 15 minutes.

UW Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering Patrick Johnson said a patient will receive results before they leave the testing center.

"The goal is to make this a widespread diagnostic test that can be utilized in remote settings or at airports or in a location where you need an immediate answer," he said.

Johnson said the test should be easy to administer and use.

"One of the goals of the test is that you wouldn't have to have highly trained personnel," he said. "So anybody taking a sample could mix the components, put it in the spectrometer and you get an auto readout of a positive or negative test."

Johnson said the handheld device is the most expensive component, but each test will cost less than a dollar.

This method would allow for both detection of the virus itself and antibodies as a result of the virus, although Johnson said that would likely require two separate samples. The team received a grant from the Health Research Board of Ireland that provides project funding for one year.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu

Ashley is a PhD student in Astronomy and Physics at UW. She loves to communicate science and does so with WPM, on the Astrobites blog, and through outreach events. She was born in Colorado and got her BS in Engineering Physics at Colorado School of Mines. Ashley loves hiking and backpacking during Wyoming days and the clear starry skies at night!
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